How do you say goodbye to your hometown?

christmas tree at reston town center pavilion virginia

Six years ago, Chris and I left Africa and returned to the US. In just one short month, we lived in a hotel, got married, bought a house, got a job (Deah), and got deployment orders for nine months (Chris). It was a crazy month, and we we found ourselves living in Reston, Virginia- which turned out to be our home for the next few years.

Reston has a very interesting history. It was one of the original “New Town” planned communities of the 50s and 60s, designed by a man named Robert E Simon (our town is named after his initials). It was inaugurated on Simon’s 50th birthday in 1964, and ol’ Bob lived to see quite the expansion of the area during the rest of his lifetime- I actually met him in 2013, and he lived until the age of 101.

Reston Virginia a new town museum lake anne plaza

The land that became Reston was originally deeded to Lord Fairfax by King Charles II in 1649, and stayed in the Fairfax family until 1852. A man named Wiehle bought much of the land along the W&OD railroad, envisioning a town, complete with hotels, parks, and a community center, but didn’t get far in his project. Later the Bowman family purchased the land and built a bourbon distillery, which operated up until 1987. Then in 1961, after his family sold Carnegie Hall, Robert E Simon used that money to purchase the land that would become Reston.

Bronze statue of Bob Simon at Lake Anne Plaza. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Simon envisioned the city of Reston as 7 neighborhood “villages”, each of them complete with a school, shopping plaza,  park, tennis court, and pool, and all 7 villages connected with forested walking paths. He followed seven “guiding principles”, which included being one of the first racially integrated cities in the US, as well as being the first private community to incorporate natural conservation into the planning. Even today, Reston is one of 8 “Most Biophilic” cities in the US, and has been named “Best Place to Live in Virginia” by Money Magazine. There are over 55 miles of walking trails, four lakes, and a 72 acre nature center in our town (which is only 15 square miles!).

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson visited Reston in 1967, as did Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (Buzz still visits the school named after him every couple of years). In 1988, the Reston Town Center was built, and included a cinema, hotel, shops, restaurants, a park, and an outdoor pavilion that converts to an ice rink in the winter, and a concert area in the summer. Several times a year the “town center” streets are blocked off and the area becomes a walking festival venue, such as Taste of Reston, Octoberfest, Virginia Fine Arts Festival, or running events such as the Turkey Trot, the Nearly Naked Mile, and the Reston Ten Miler (look for Deah and Chris manning the beer tent at the Taste of Reston on June 16).

Reston became “Hill Valley” for the WWFF screening of Back to the Future, complete with dozens of Deloreans, cast, and crew of the films. October 21, 2015, of course.
Deah and Chris at Oktoberfest 2015. Photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography.

Washington Dulles International airport is just six miles to the west, while Washington DC is 18 miles to the east. The metro finally arrived in Reston in 2014, connecting us with both. While a lot of Reston residents live here and work in DC, a surprising number of people live elsewhere and commute to Reston to work at Google, Spring, Oracle, Verisign, College Board, Learning Tree, Bechtel, Dell, Microsoft, and USGS. The German Armed Forces Command for US and Canada are here, with a piece of the Berlin Wall on their campus, and a wonderful Christkindlmarkt every December. The WOD walking/biking trail runs through Reston and stretches 67 miles from Arlington to Purcelville, full of runners, bikers, walkers, and strollers every day of the week.

The original Reston village neighborhood, Lake Anne, is still a vibrant community spot. They host the city’s last independent book store, a barber, a small grocery market, a few restaurants, a city museum, a new brew pub, a wine bar, and a community center. There’s always an event happening there, from the Saturday farmer’s market (April to December) to the summer concert series, the Polar Dip in January, Chalk on the Water in June, stand up paddleboarding, Santa coming to visit, or more.

All in all, Reston has been a great place to live. It is starting to get more crowded- the most recent census puts it at 56,000 people, and the population density is on the rise, much to the dismay of original Restonites. Homes are getting more expensive- the median price is $448,000. I’m happy that we lived here for the six years that we did (and happy that we sold our house when we did too!). Over the years, I’ve enjoyed learning about Reston’s unique history, walking the wooded paths, and finding the many art pieces hidden throughout the city (check out this fun walking guide from FunInFairfax!). I plan to make the most of our final month in this city that has been our home for the past six years.

The “Van Gogh” Bridge at Lake Anne
Paddle Boarder on Lake Thoreau

7 thoughts on “How do you say goodbye to your hometown?

  1. Wow! I had no idea there were other communities in the D.C. area built in this fashion, under a similar vision, within the same timeframe—my sister lives in Columbia, MD, and the similarities are striking, to me.

    Thank you!


    1. Interesting- I’ll have to look at that community and see what it’s like. Robert Simon was certainly a visionary, and I have heard that our city is studied in colleges still that have Urban Planning courses.


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